The heads-up between Petersen and Pierre Neuville was the culmination of one of the most entertaining EPT final for some time. Here we had Team Online against Team PokerStars Pro; youth against the old timer; blonde hair against dark hair; machine-made livery against endearing handmade badges. It was something else too. It was the enthusiasm of a young player against the enthusiasm of an old player, something that united both and showed through to the very last hand. Copenhagen has, in the past, hosted heads-up stretching into the early hours, finals that have left even the most partisan onlookers begging for someone to do enough to win. For some that was repeated today in a heads-up match that lasted more than six-and-a-quarter-hours. But for those familiar with the ghost of Tim Vance, this was all to be expected and somehow it didn’t really matter.
“It’s absolutely and completely surreal,” said Petersen. “When you play live tournaments you have a lot of doubt in yourself because you can’t play that many.
“I’ve played maybe fifty live tournaments before and people have been saying ‘Why isn’t this guy winning? Why isn’t he transitioning well?’ The sample is so small. It does feel good to get a win under my belt though, especially in my home town which is awesome. “I’m good friends with Rupert (Elder), David (Vamplew), (Kevin) MacPhee and Ben (Wilinofsky), all those guys that have won EPTs in the last couple of years so to join that club is awesome.”
They began level in chips then Petersen pulled ahead, before Neuville pegged him back. Soon after the Belgian found aces and quietly took the lead, but then they were back to where they started from.
That was 100 hands later, and with the chip stacks even they began the to-and-fro again. During one break Neuville found some much needed food. At the dinner break a level later he was again spotted pacing the lobby with a second bowl of something. While nourishment was Neuville’s priority, Petersen needed reassurance from railing friends, who dusted off the lingering doubts creeping into the young Dane’s mind.
“I felt pretty confident going into the heads up match but I’d like to think that I ran really bad in cards in the first couple of hours,” said Petersen. “I barely had a pair and I had ace-jack once and had to fold it. I was getting run over a little bit and then I made two stupid mistakes that I kind of regret which put a little doubt in my mind. Eventually I managed to grind it back, very slowly and steadily so that was really nice.”
But as the clock crept past midnight Petersen had regained his composure and was beginning to press his advantage home. Neuville slugged back, doubling with queen-ten against Petersen’s jack-ten, then again with ace-jack, and again with ace-king. But it proved only a brief respite. Petersen dominated, reducing Neuville to a handful of big blinds. Finally it came down to a rivered five, which gave a leg up to Petersen’s ace-five over Neuville’s ace-four.
A visibly exhausted Neuville reached out to shake Petersen’s hand, patting him on the back. Petersen hardly reacted at all and may not until sometime tomorrow when all of this becomes a more definite reality in his mind. To concentrate purely on Petersen would be to ignore another miraculous performance this week, that of Neuville. The former company executive, who famously took a 25 year break from poker (during which time someone invented the internet and online poker), defied everyone again today, finishing second for the second time.
Neuville, a gent and an honourable ambassador for the game, was typically gracious towards his young vanquisher, but may privately mourn coming so close once more, the fourth player to record two second places on the tour. He shouldn’t. Frankly the game is better when Pierre plays, a welcome reminder that while money may be the driving factor in this game, pure enjoyment can run a very close second, and that age really is no barrier in this most open of games. “I’ll do better next time,” joked Neuville, as he watched his opponent lift the trophy. Copenhagen usually throws something unusual together, but today’s final could claim a surplus of talent than anything out of the ordinary.